A dark cloud in the form of an estimated $1.2-billion deficit is hovering over Saskatchewan.
Premier Brad Wall shared this grim news with hundreds of intrigued delegates in early February at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) annual convention in Saskatoon.
Major cuts to education and health were floated as ideas on how to chip away at the debt, in addition to wage freezes and the possibility of more layoffs in a province that already has seen its
unemployment rate steadily climb the past several months.
However, the premier said infrastructure remains a priority, but that everything would be on the table when it comes to ideas on how to reverse the mounting deficit.
Infrastructure is a critical necessity in Saskatchewan. Our economy leans heavily on our bustling trade and export industries, which in turn rely on quality roads and highways to ensure our commodities reach their desired international markets.
If we ignore upgrades and enhancement and general maintenance to our roadways our economy will continue to suffer. Rather than sit idle or reverse course, we believe this province needs to work through the deficit storm in an effort to maintain fluidity in our economy.
A staggered approach is a proactive method with regards to paying off our deficit and maintaining a fluidity with our economy.
The time to build and keep Saskatchewan growing is now, when infrastructure construction costs are currently at an all-time low. We should continue to invest in our infrastructure before prices begin to climb.
The wrong approach, we believe, would have been to invest in a “Rainy Day Fund”, as the Opposition NDP Party suggested in response to Mr. Wall’s deficit announcement.
The NDP said that instead of spending $20 billion on infrastructure over the past eight years the Saskatchewan Party should have socked away money for times like this.
But we feel investing in a “Rainy Day Fund” won't create jobs or facilitate growth, nor will it attract investment. As well, there is much more work to be done with repairs and upgrades after the decades of neglect.
International markets won’t take a break and wait for this storm to pass, and neither should our provincial government. Quality infrastructure in the form of roads and highways are designed to move people forward, and we feel that investing in this sector will do the same for Saskatchewan and its economy.